How Do I Hang a Stage Light?

stagehand basics Nov 02, 2022

You might think that hanging a stage light is self-explanatory – attach the clamp, hang the light and viola! The light is ready to hang.

And while that can be true, there are a few parts of the process – that if you aren’t careful – can really sabotage you later and be a safety-issue as well.

Here are some things you need to consider and do when hanging a light:

Step 1: Make Sure the Light Is Complete

Before you even get up in the air, you need to make sure the light is complete.

This means it needs to have a clamp or clamps and safety cable, all securely attached. Any tightening knobs on the light itself need to be securely tightened.

If the light takes DMX (and most do these days), you need to ensure you have the cables you need with the correct connectors for the light that you are hanging.

The clamp needs to be tight to the fixture, and if it’s a C-Clamp, make sure the tightening bolt is loose enough so you don’t have to fumble around in the air trying to loosen the bolt as you attempt to raise the light onto the pipe or truss.

Make sure that they clamp also has a lock nut or lock washer attaching it to the fixture.  

The safety cable needs to go through the yolk of the light and the pipe or truss that it is hung on.

If the light has a safety cable attachment point on the body of the light, use that instead of the yolk.

The fixture needs to be facing forward, so that the cord(s) coming out of the back of the fixture is in line with the clamp.  This keeps you from having to spin it later when you focus. For specifics on hanging moving lights, see the section further in the article.

Step 2: Hanging Your Lights

Once in the air, you need to first place the light on the pipe or truss.
The bolt on the clamp should face backwards, so that you can adjust it if needed while focusing the light from behind.

The only exception to this is if your hanging position makes it especially difficult to tighten the bolt from behind, in which case reverse it- but keep it consistent!

Big tip: If every fixture is hung with the clamp bolt facing the same direction, you will move through a light focus or changeover much faster!  

You’ll be able to know where the adjustment bolts are without looking.  Next, you want to hand-tighten the bolt and then attach the safety cable through the yoke of the fixture and around the pipe.

If you are near the end of the pipe, run the safety through another fixture so if I fixture hangs by its safety, there is no way it can fall!

Then, tighten the bolt to attach the fixture to the pipe.

After this, tilt the fixture forward into the approximate position it will end up once focused.  If it has shutters(an ellipsoidal), open them up.  Check to make sure that the gel frame is inserted safely, and that its clip is clipped securely.  

If you are using a gel frame in the light, the side of the light with the clip goes up, as it is possible for the gel frame to fall out even when the clip is closed IF the light is up-side down!

After that, plug in the fixture in, and get ready to focus!

Hanging Moving Lights

When hanging moving lights– some moving lights are heavy and will require 2 people to hang it. Smaller moving lights can be hung by a single person.

You want to hang the moving onto the pipe or truss with the display facing upstage (towards the back wall) and the clamps also facing downstage, or towards the front of house position.  

Tighten down the clamps, and attach the safety around the pipe and through the safety point on the bottom of the light.

The only exception to the display “upstage” rule is when a fixture tilts side-to-side as compared to the display – you want that fixture to be pointed so it tilts towards the stage!

When plugging in the moving light, make sure that you and your lift are out of the way of the head, which will “home” or move around to calibrate itself immediately upon being plugged in.

Always plug in the data cables before the power so that you don’t cause a mover to home twice or get confused and go into a auto-program mode.

Hanging the lights in your lighting rig safely is very important, and requires much attention to detail and safety.  

By properly hanging your lights, you are not only safe but also efficient.  By using this guide, you can keep your lighting rig consistent and have your volunteers do the same, making changes to your rig easier in the future.


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